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Fast Break: Down and out in Toronto 11.21.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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There were bad signs all around for the Celtics when they went to Toronto to play the Raptors. First, it was an afternoon game and the C’s have had well-documented issues playing in the daylight hours. Second, and most importantly, Rajon Rondo was held out of the game (and is questionable for Monday’s game with the Hawks) because of a strained left hamstring.

Nate Robinson played well in his absence, but the Celtics struggled to find any kind of consistency on offense and that’s Rondo’s department. The Celtics actually had a lead late in the game, but Ray Allen lost control of the ball and Amir Johnson made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to secure the 102-101 victory for the Raptors.

The Celtics had won eight straight against Toronto and were 11-1 against them since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Interior defense: Where did it go? The Celtics are one of the best teams in the league at defending the paint, but without a big-time shot blocker they are dependent on stopping dribble penetration and playing their usual strong help-side defense. Glen Davis ability to take charges is a huge benefit as well. None of that was on display against the Raptors.

Foul trouble: Shaquille O’Neal picked up his third foul after only eight minutes. Davis had three before halftime and Semih Erden picked up four first-half fouls. In the third quarter, Paul Pierce and Garnett also picked up their fourth fouls. The Raptors went on an 11-1 run against the Celtics makeshift lineup.

Andrea Bargnani happened: The former No. 1 pick has had a much-maligned career with the Raptors, but he showed up big against the Celtics. Always a threat from long range, Bargnani put the ball on the floor and attacked the Celtics defense. He not only scored 29 points, he also got to the free throw line 13 times and put the entire Celtics frontcourt in foul trouble.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Nate Robinson: With Rondo out, Doc Rivers elected to start Robinson instead of Delonte West at the point. Robinson has struggled at times this season, but he was reborn playing with the starters. Robinson started hot and stayed that way. He scored 16 points in the first quarter and did an effective job of pushing the pace. The Celtics play differently with Robinson in the lineup, but he did the job.

KG in the post: The Celtics want Garnett to be more aggressive with his offense, which is nothing new. He’s one of the best perimeter shooting big men in the game and while that is a great skill, he sometimes settles for the 20-footer too much. Against the Raptors, who have no inside presence, Garnett went to the post-up game and was successful in the second quarter. They did it again in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were making their run.

Defense in the fourth: The Celtics played almost no defense in the first half, allowing the Raptors to shoot 55 percent and drive to the basket at will. They began to tighten up in the third quarter and then really put the hammer down in the fourth. They did the same thing Friday night, which is not a great omen. They consistency has just not been there.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Raptors,
Fast Break: C’s right ship 04.07.10 at 9:30 pm ET
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No matter how much they insist that the regular season is meaningless from here on out, the Celtics needed a win Wednesday night against the Raptors. They needed one because of the way they played against the Knicks on Tuesday and they needed one because if they are going to go into the playoffs with any kind of momentum it has to start somewhere.

They might have needed a win, but that doesn’t mean they played like it. For two and a half quarters it was the same Celtics team we’ve seen over the last few weeks. They were fine offensively, but the defense lacked the ability or focus to get stops. That all changed late in the third quarter and the C’s were able to ride a strong effort from their reserves to a 115-104 win over Toronto.

They did it despite sitting Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins for major stretches of the second half. Michael Finley scored 14 points and had six rebounds in 23 minutes of action and Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis also checked in with 20+ minute evenings.

The Celtics had five players score in double figures, led by Rajon Rondo with 21 points and Kevin Garnett had 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting. They shot 56 percent and held the Raptors to under 50 percent shooting on the defensive end. It was a good win for the Celtics, and maybe even a necessary win.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo’s night started poorly but ended spectacularly. He had four turnovers in the first half, but didn’t commit another in the second. That was as big a factor in the win as his 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Turning Point: The Celtics were nursing a two-point lead midway through the third quarter when Doc Rivers went to his bench. The reserves pushed the lead to double-digits

* Sonny Weems had a career half for Toronto with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the first 24 minutes, but he scored just four points the rest of the way.

* Ray Allen had 18 points, including a gorgeous behind the back move for a layup.

* Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson both did not play rotation minutes again and Tony Allen was the nominal backup point guard.

* As expected, Chris Bosh did not play for the Raptors. He had surgery to repair a facial fracture after he caught an elbow from Cleveland’€™s Antawn Jamison in their game Tuesday. It is unlikely that Bosh will play again during the regular season. He will be a free agent this summer.

* It got worse for the Raptors as Hedo Turkoglu was inadvertently hit in the face by Tony Allen late in the first quarter and had to leave the game. He did not return and is listed as questionable with a nasal contusion.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Raptors,
Preview: Celtics-Raptors at 10:41 am ET
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The Celtics are like the kid that doesn’t do their homework, and then is surprised when they fail the test. But failing the test does little to chasten them because — they seem to have reasoned collectively — if they had studied they would have done just fine.

Kendrick Perkins told reporters after Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks that they were making up defenses on the fly. Doc Rivers continues to insist that he’s not holding open tryouts for bench spots even though the rotation seems to change on a nightly basis. Kevin Garnett said the gods were punishing them.

Whatever. The Celtics, frankly, are a mess and what’s most disturbing about it is that they can’t seem to get it right even when they want to. They play the Raptors tonight, a team that is without Chris Bosh who broke his face Tuesday against the Cavs, and who have their own internal problems.

If you were a betting person you would take this game off your board because with these two teams, who knows which one will show up to play.

CELTICS (48-29, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.1

Points Allowed: 95.2

Differential: +3.9 (9th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (15th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.1 (4th)

Pace: 91.8 (20th)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

RAPTORS (38-39, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 103.9

Points Allowed: 105.8

Differential: -1.9 (18th)

Offensive Efficiency: 110.9 (7th)

Defensive Efficiency: 112.9 (30th)

Pace: 93.2 (11th)

Likely Starters: Jose Calderon, Sonny Weems, Hedo Turkoglu, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani

Injuries: Chris Bosh (Face fracture), Antoine Wright (Ankle) Read the rest of this entry »

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Rasheed: We had guys step up 01.03.10 at 3:01 am ET
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Rasheed Wallace has been around the NBA long enough to know not to get discouraged even when times look most bleak.

Another valuable lesson was taught Saturday night and it was Wallace and the Celtics schooling the Toronto Raptors, making the visitors North of the border look woefully unprepared for the woefully undermanned Celtics. Even without Paul Pierce [right knee], Kevin Garnett [right knee] and Rajon Rondo [left hamstring], the Celtics led virtually from the beginning of the game.

Here’s a sample of what Wallace and Celtics coach Doc Rivers had to say after they snapped a three-game skid with a 103-96 win over the Raptors.

Doc Rivers said his team had the right attitude on Saturday after dropping three straight.

Rivers said Wallace was huge in picking up the slack of the three missing starters.

Rivers said his reserves kept it simple, providing the key to victory.

Rasheed Wallace said they had guys step up on Saturday.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, Raptors
Fast Break: Celtics-Raptors 01.02.10 at 10:04 pm ET
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In truth, no one really knew what to expect when the Celtics took on the Raptors Saturday night featuring a starting lineup that included Tony Allen (playing point guard, no less) and J.R. Giddens. Add in Rasheed Wallace in place of Kevin Garnett and a bench that had six healthy players, including Bill Walker and Lester Hudson, and well, what right did anyone have to expect the Celtics to beat the resurgent Raptors?

They did, 103-96, and they’ll take it of course after a tumultuous week in which they lost three straight games and Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Garnett to injury. Any win right now is huge.

The Celtics now have four days to try and get something that resembles a healthy team in place for a road trip that will have them go to Miami, Atlanta and then Toronto. At this point, no one really knows who among the trio will be healthy enough to play against the Heat, although Pierce and Rondo would be the best guess. Garnett is likely to be out longer.

But for one night, the Celtics were able to steal a victory that was all the more satisfying against a division rival with their makeshift lineup.

Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace. The Celtics began the game by feeding Wallace in the post and Wallace promptly banked in a jumper over Chris Bosh. It was a sign of things to come for Wallace who used his inside and outside game to play maybe his best game in a Celtic uniform. Wallace finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, and he and Kendrick Perkins took turns making Bosh work for his offense.

Turning Point: After a competitive, but ragged, first quarter, the Celtics bench helped push the lead into double-digits in the second. Led primarily by Glen Davis, who had his best game since returning from injury, Eddie House and rookie Lester Hudson the Celtics reserves shot 7-for-13 in the quarter.

* Giddens got his first career start, but Hudson was the best of the so-called Celtics “kids.” Fresh off a stint in the D-League, Hudson looked calm and confident running the team. Bill Walker did not play.

* Wallace and Hedo Turkoglu picked up double technicals in the second quarter. It was the 11th technical of the season called on Wallace, putting him five away from an automatic suspension.

* Tony Allen had the dunk of the night, blowing by Bosh and jamming it home against an unguarded basket. Toronto’s defensive shortcomings have to be seen to be believed. Later in the fourth quarter, Wallace spun around Andrea Bargnani and easily beat him baseline with no help coming for a huge dunk.

* The Celtics had six players score in double figures led by Ray Allen who scored 23 of the quietest points he’s scored in his career. Tony Allen also had his best game of the season with 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Raptors,
Celts Make it Five Straight 10.18.09 at 6:09 pm ET
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Marquis Daniels can do a lot of things on the basketball court. That’s a big reason why the former undrafed free agent has had a long and productive career as a role player.

Coming into the Celtics preseason game with the Raptors Sunday in Toronto, Doc Rivers figured to see just how many things Daniels could do on the court. He has already proven himself as a capable ball handler and backup swing man, but Rivers wanted to see him running the point and playing small forward for extended stretches of game action in the Celtics 101-82 victory over Toronto. (Click here for a recap).

Daniels was in the 3-spot for about six minutes of the second quarter when he ran with Rajon Rondo and Eddie House in the backcourt and Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace up front. The lineup had some rough spots offensively, but they were active and pesky on defense and Rivers may have found yet another combination to play with once the regular season starts.

There was talk of other more exotic lineup combinations, but few materialized Sunday. Instead Ray Allen and Rondo played 30+ minutes and Kevin Garnett checked in with a 21-point, 28-minute afternoon. The starters were in rhythm offensively in the first half, shooting 78 percent in the first quarter as Garnett and Allen combined to go 10-for-12 for 23 points.

The second half was more ragged, but all in all, it was another productive preseason outing for the Celts who have won five straight.

A few other observations:

Allen finds his stroke: As the Celtics check items off their preseason to-do list, they can add another notch after Allen finally had a hot shooting night. Coming into the game, Allen was shooting just 36 percent in his four outings. But after going 6-for-6 in the first half and finishing with an efficient 20-points, the veteran shooter is back on track.

Not that anyone should have been worrying about Allen. He is coming off one of the best shooting seasons of his career and he came into camp in terrific shape. But Allen is in the final year of his contract and his season will be watched carefully for any signs of slippage. As a general rule, when shooting guards in their 30’s lose it, they tend to lose it quickly.

Allen has been able to defy the ravages of time and has the game to continue being a successful shooter for a few more years. Whether that will translate into another big contract remains to be seen.

Inside the matchups: The Celtics don’t figure to get a lot of competition from the Atlantic Division this year. The Knicks and Nets are in various stages of their rebuilding programs and while the Sixers and Raptors should find themselves in playoff contention, neither is likely to make a serious move in the east.

Still, the games against Toronto are some of the more intriguing ones for the Celtics because there are three great individual matchups — Rondo vs. Jose Calderon, Paul Pierce vs. Hedo Turkoglu and Kendrick Perkins vs. Chris Bosh.

Rondo and Calderon are two of the top point guards in the conference, while Pierce and Turkoglu love to mix it up with each other. The two are among the craftiest practitioners of their art in the league and Pierce has tremendous respect for Turkoglu.

Perkins, meanwhile, is on the cusp of earning serious defensive cred around the league, especially after he battled Dwight Howard with one arm in last season’s playoffs. Bosh is one of his toughest covers because the Raptors big man can go inside and out and because he has several inches on Perkins.

Give Bosh the edge Sunday. He had Perkins in foul trouble for most of the afternoon and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, but expect to see some great battles during the regular season.

NOTES: As expected, Tony Allen (ankle) and Bill Walker (knee surgery) didn’t play. Former Celtic Patrick O’Bryant had two points, four rebounds and five fouls in 12 uninspired minutes. The teams combined for 43 turnovers and 54 fouls.

The Celtics have two more preseason games — at New York Tuesday and at Cleveland Wednesday. Don’t expect to see much against the Cavs.

Read More: Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Marquis Daniels, Raptors
Celtics-Raptors Game Blog Fourth Quarter 11.10.08 at 7:31 pm ET
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Once down by as many as 16 points, the Boston Celtics staged a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Toronto Raptors 94-87 on Monday night at the TD BankNorth Garden. Paul Pierce scored 22 points in the final 12 minutes alone and finished the night with 36 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Kevin Garnett added 21 points and 10 boards. Jermaine O’Neal posted 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors.

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Read More: Celtics, eddie house, Kevin Garnett, Raptors
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